Some time in 2011 Google’s PageRank patent will become non-exclusive. And then in 2017 the patent will expire completely.
I noticed this same circumstance in my earlier article about Google while researching some of their defenses to the Oracle patent litigation. Specifically, I pondered the question of why Google might argue for new law that would patents more vulnerable?
So, IF Google is gearing up to create some caselaw that would help others invalidate patents on Bilski grounds, what does it have to do with the Page Rank patent? Well, most probably remember the license agreement with Stanford University that granted exclusive rights to the invention of Google founder Larry Page. Well, prior to Google’s IPO, the agreement was updated (in 2003) to provide exclusive rights to the Page Rank patent until 2011, after which, although Google will still be entitled to practice the patent, but Stanford would also be free to license the technology to others..
The updated agreement extended the exclusivity period to a fixed date in 2011, giving Google some additional years of exclusivity. While Google may not necessarily be worried about being financially outperformed on the search engine market, the intangible effect of competitors using essentially the same, patented indexing process might be unsettling enough to prompt a payment to Stanford ensuring that doesn’t happen. I won’t be surprised to see an announcement later this year, with an undisclosed payment in exchange for Stanford extending the exclusivity period on the license.